Task force confronts problem of drug abuse among youths

TRENTON – Health experts, addicts and a former governor convened a public brainstorming session today to address the problem of drug abuse among youth.

Former Gov. James McGreevey was back in the Statehouse today as a member of the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use Amongst New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults.

The task force, organized as part of the Christie administration’s Blueprint for a Drug Free New Jersey 2020, held its first hearing this morning, taking testimony from opiate addicts and interested stakeholders.

“In New Jersey, nearly half of the state’s more than 8,600 other opiate admissions, including prescription painkillers, involved New Jersey youth and young adults, 25 years old and younger,” said Frank Greenagel Jr., a recovery counselor at Rutgers University and the chairman of the task force.

“These admissions have jumped a staggering 1,706 from 2009 (a 79 percent increase in two years). Heroin admissions for this age group have also climbed to 6,617 in 2011, 2,046 more than in 2007 (a 44 percent increase in four years).”

The committee was scheduled to hear testimony about treatment admissions, as well as a presentation from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency representative, and members of the public.

Greenagel said the task force will hold multiple hearings throughout the state before convening to make recommendations to different branches of state government on how to help drug addicts receive help.

“The governor has a strong commitment to tackling this surge of drug abuse and addiction in our state…the governor is intent on moving this state toward treatment instead of incarceration,” McGreevey said. “The governor also seeks to change the status quo and that is why we are here today.”

McGreevey works to help inmates in the Hudson County Correctional Center who are addicted to drugs.

A Rutgers student identified only as Ryan, who is addicted to opiates, said he became addicted to drugs at age 16. His recommendation to the task force was to increase rehabilitation times.

“Thirty days isn’t enough,” Ryan said. “It’s a great start for some people…but there has to be a point where you go beyond that.”

Meg Dupont-Parisi, whose son died of drug abuse, said more resources need to be allocated to help people.

“The local police and the DEA have their hands full,” she said. “They’re overworked.”

Dupont-Parisi said the state should implement a rule that all local police departments have secured lock boxes for evidence in their stations.

The task force will also eventually look at how to curb doctors from overprescribing prescription drugs.

McGreevey said that from 1997-2007, the milligram per person use of opiate in the United States increased by 74 mg to 369 mg. He also said in 2000, retail pharamacies dispensed 174 million prescriptions for opiates, and by 2009, the number was up to 257 million, a 48 percent increase.

Task force confronts problem of drug abuse among youths